I married an older man, and this week he’s turning 75. When we met, I was 14 and he was 15. Fortuitously, on this landmark birthday, it’s golden to be golden. All the good guys are over 75 these days. In fact, presidentially speaking, my guy isn’t quite old enough. If he were running for office, he would need another three or four years of maturing to be ready for the Oval Office.
I’m old enough to remember the election of Jack Kennedy when he was 43, and let me tell you, our Joe Biden is no Jack Kennedy. Apparently the passing of torches and high-energy moon-shot talk are out of favor, and white hair and marital fidelity are in. Sailing off Cape Cod is out and riding Amtrak is in.
Politico released a story featuring President Biden’s cabinet appointees, referring to the cabinet as his “senior center.” And with good reason. The average age of the first 12 nominees is 63. Among other leadership, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 80. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is 70. The GOP’s Mitch McConnell is 79. Not to mention Bernie Sanders.
In the run-up to the 2020 election, I wrote a column arguing that Biden was too old to run for presidency. I was concerned that his age could compromise his performance in office. Ideally, a president should be at the peak of his powers. But we don’t live in an ideal world.
When the race came down to Trump vs. Biden, there was no question at all: Biden had to win. He had to replace the man and the messengers who were infusing corruption and authoritarianism into our government agencies and offices. Many of us who voted for Biden felt destabilized by the previous administration. We wanted someone we could count on.
There is something about Biden’s age that makes it all work in this moment. He has the gravitas, the experience and the emotional stability to give us our best chance of building bridges, literally and figuratively. He walks in step with many diverse groups of Americans, and they know he knows their lives.
He is building a team of professionals who have done this job before and know the ropes.
Perhaps the emergence of the old man as political hero began with Sanders in the 2016 election. Among the many bizarre aspects of that race was the phenomenon of young people driving the Sanders election machine.
Bernie’s supporters loved him because he seemed like an honest broker to them, and that’s a rare commodity in modern political life. Biden’s supporters stand with him because they connected with him on an emotional and ethical level. They were tired of trauma and melodrama emanating from the White House. They were tired of decrees by tweet and, truthfully, tired of a madman at the helm of our ship of state.
Watching Biden’s steady hand on the wheel is heartening. His longtime relationships smooth the way for getting things done. Yes, he’s old. Yes, he occasionally flubs a line, but this happens to be his unique time to change the course of American history.
So what does this have to do with my husband turning 75? Biden has neutralized the age issue. What do I care if my partner of 48 years has wrinkles and white hair? What do I care if he gets out of breath playing basketball with the grandkids?
Sure, I remember the 17-year-old hunk I dated at Lawrence High School in 1964. Yes, I know he had shoulders to die for and a killer jump shot. Today he walks a bit more slowly, and sometimes searches for a word. But he’s so in. Like the Bern, his voice is sometimes raspy, and he, too, waves his arms when he talks. But we have a meeting of the minds on the state of the world and politics. We have successfully worked together for more than five decades on raising our kids and grandkids and caring for aging parents.
It’s true, my old man has arthritis in his neck, and sometimes heavy breathing means he is walking up too many stairs. But who would want a callow youth? The ascendance of Joe Biden has taught us that 70-something can be a starting line. Anything is possible.
My birthday boy has four years to decide whether to run for president.
Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.